Is Rwanda’s Fast Development reflected in the Education Sector?
Education is the key to success.Solomon Ortiz
We are all well aware of how quickly Rwanda has been and still is developing, especially coming from a completely ruined nation just a few years ago; it really deserves all the praise and accolades. However, this growth may be in certain areas while others remain stagnant. One of the most important sectors I believe has to always strive to be better is the education sector, for this sector provides most of the workforce needed in any other sector; as the saying goes “education is the key to success”. After independence, the first Republic made the education system available to all children, and founded the National University of Rwanda. All this was disrupted by the 1994 genocide causing a destruction of schools, infrastructure as well as a huge social displacement. Post genocide education picked up at a very slow pace due to underdevelopment and having to start from scratch as a country. The rate at which children attended and completed school dropped significantly according to a survey conducted by the government and United Nations Population Fund, revealing that in 1996 only 59.6% of the population of children 6 and above had a primary education, only 3.9% of them completed secondary and from the 3.9%, only 2% pursued a university education (CIA 2000). Amidst the battle of restoring an educational system, there are a few variables that were abandoned in the pre genocide era like the ethnic quota system used for admittance, but did keep the 6-3-3-4 system which means; 6 years in primary, 3 in junior secondary school, 3 in senior secondary school and 4 in university bachelors. So, how far has the education system come twenty-seven years later and what does it lack, if anything?
Local and international nongovernmental organizations along with the Rwandan government worked hand in hand to provide educational services to the children since 1995, and by 2001, there was an increase in the number of children enrolled in secondary schools and post secondary schools according to a report by President Paul Kagame (Rwanda News Agency 2001). Between 1995 all the way to 2015, the education system worked through a knowledge based curriculum, which generally focuses on the content and what the students know and memorized in the end. This method of teaching did not render the desired results once these learners graduated and entered the real world with little to no practical skills required in several sectors of work. Knowledge based curriculum emphasized so much on the content leaving no room for students to challenge the teachers or what they were being taught. However the Rwanda Education Board did notice this gap, therefore introducing a “Competence Based Curriculum” (CBC) as their new curriculum in 2015. A Competence Based Curriculum is a curriculum that emphasizes on the knowledge, skills and attitudes towards competence as the learning outcomes rather than just theory based knowledge, so in the end, students have the skills and practicality to complement the knowledge acquired and are fit for competence.
Even though it is necessary, a shift like this is not easy for either one of the participants; teachers or students because it is a significant change in how the teacher gives as well as how the students receive and perceive. In retrospect, the introduction and implication of this curriculum was warmly welcomed by teachers, but in reality, the assessment process that was still being used did not align with the curriculum’s core principles. A survey was conducted to get a general understanding of what teachers from primary and secondary thought as the ideal way to assess their students and results showed that their mindset towards assessment was a knowledge based curriculum kind of assessment; teacher made tests, student written work and marked homework. An example that emphasizes the gap between CBC’s goal and the assessment procedures nationwide, is the examination-dominated assessment that Rwanda’s education system operates on, e.g national exams. In the 6th issue of “URUNANA Rw’abarezi” Mrs Batamuriza Edith, the Director of education in Nyagatare District in 2018 believed that “All teachers were trained but some resist change”, adding that they are more familiar and comfortable with the previous methods of teaching and assessing hence why the switch was not fully received and implemented as initially planned. For the students, this shift was well received because according to Mrs Batamuliza those in her district were excited to interact with each other and do their own research and discovery resulting in happier students. Additionally, an aspect that hinders the full potential of this educational development is language barrier. The official languages of instruction are both Kinyarwanda from p1 to p3 and English from p4 up till university, so this too slows down the pace of learning and growing. However with the introduction of CBC, children’s participation and performance has risen significantly. In the tech field, considering the world is gradually becoming digital, Rwanda ventured into the ‘one laptop per child’ program which aimed to provide every primary child with a laptop and by 2016, 267,000 laptops have been designated to children in over 930 schools across the country (OLPC Rwanda – OLPC, n.d.)
What visions does Rwanda have for their education?
As a member of the African Union, Rwanda’s plans for education should align with the 2063 agenda’s vision for Africa’s education. A few of the agenda’s criteria are to provide an education that results in a skilled workforce, a holistic equitable and inclusive education as well as quality and relevant education. With the implementation of CBC, the skilled workforce vision can be fulfilled, quality and relevant education too is in the works through the education institutions that provide the content. The same applies to a holistic equitable and inclusive education. In 2018, Rwanda’s ministry of education released a revised special needs and inclusive education policy. This policy aims to give a platform to marginalized and stigmatized disabled children; visually impaired, physically unable, deaf and mute and mentally disabled children. The platform provides a pathway to inclusivity through training programs, provision of tools that help ease the child’s burdens and celebrating them through acknowledgement. However, there are a few things left out of the disability umbrella, and that is invisible learning disabilities. These disabilities are not so easy to recognize so they easily and often go unnoticed, which in the long can lead to a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. In an environment where invisible learning disabilities often go unnoticed, shows how little people know of these disabilities while putting an emphasis on the lack of awareness in general. A research I conducted on the awareness on invisible learning disabilities in Kigali, Rwanda revealed to me how oblivious many of us are, including the two important groups of people, teachers and parents, who should be aware of at least the basics (teachers especially).
So, to answer our question..
The education system in Rwanda has definitely come a long way despite the many different hindrances, the shift from knowledge based curriculum to a competence based curriculum was a very necessary shift and shows that the country’s development is also seeping into the education field. Teachers may be having a hard time adjusting to the change but the training and constant check ins on how to go about easing into the CBC fundamentals, has generally helped in how they teach but not how they assess yet. Students enjoy education more because they participate in the exchange which results in better participation and that in itself is a development. However I believe that they still have a long way to go in order to have an educational body that is exhaustively inclusive. First steps should be creating awareness on all marginalized groups, eliminating the existing stigmas, then eventually creating a safe and all-inclusive school environment where there are no major separations between students. Having separate entities that cater to children differently also contributes to the gap between what children know and what they should know regarding disabilities.
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